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Hiking like an electron

Three DESY scientists tackle a charity trailwalk in Japan

| 30 May 2013

Four eager men about to hike in an arc around Mount Fuji with a t-shirt that says “I can get this straight” – and all of it for charity.

It’s no secret that scientists have a tendency to totally immerse themselves in their work. Sometimes they also immerse themselves into an adventure – like DESY scientists Eckhard Elsen, Karsten Gadow and Carsten Niebuhr. The three of them boarded a plane to Japan in early May in order to take a walk for charity, a so-called Oxfam Trailwalk through Hakone National Park. This hike would lead the three (alongside another 178 teams) over 100 kilometres in an arc around Mount Fuji and was not allowed to last longer than 48 hours. This particular trailwalk had the added “feature” of an elevation of 5000 metres (going up) and 4000 metres (going down) through not particularly well-trodden terrain.

“This walk was a bit like particle acceleration at DESY,” says Eckhard Elsen. “Like a good particle bunch we kept our goal in sight, there a few section of excellent acceleration (downhill) and bad phase adaption (uphill). We needed a strong final focus to reach our target, and like at any collider our beta function was particularly steep right before the end. The final 20 kilometres included two impressive elevations.” The team, carrying the pragmatic northern German title “Wat mutt dat mutt” (“whatever must be, must be”) was completed by Englishman Joe Pournovin who lives in Japan and is a semi-professional trailwalker for charity. The men – all wearing TEAM t-shirts from the ECFA Linear Collider workshop that takes place in Hamburg this week – had to hike through the night in order to stay in the 48-hour time limit. There were eight check points along the way for food and general support, and the team had hoped for dramatic vistas of Mount Fuji, “but Fuji-san is a shy mountain,” says Carsten Niebuhr, “it likes to shroud itself in clouds.”

Shy Mount Fuji showed itself at the end of the hike.

The hike followed old Samurai paths from Odawara city to Yamanaka Lake, and the team „Wat mutt dat mutt“ reached the finish in about 30 hours. Despite the pouring rain on day 2, they came in at rank 39. A total of 527 trailwalkers finished the challenge. Completely soaked, the German-English team welcomed the warm waters of a nearby Japanese onsen in order to wake the next morning to a beautiful sunny view of Fuji-san.

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